World economy needs more science graduates, OECD says

February 6, 2004

Science and technology ministers from the world's most industrialised countries have warned that a fall in the number of science and technology graduates could hamper the nations' long-term development.

They urged closer cooperation between governments and the private sector.

Peter McGauran, Australian minister for science and chairman of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development committee of scientific and technological policy, said at the end of a two-day ministerial meeting in Paris: "There is a wane in the interest of the young in science and engineering for their future careers. No country is immune from this, and all economies are suffering as young people prefer medicine, law and commerce."

It was the first meeting at ministerial level for five years, taking place when there is growing pressure for closer relationships between science and innovation systems and greater international cooperation.

Ministers said in a statement after the meeting: "A well-functioning interface between the innovation and science systems is more necessary than ever to reap the economic and social benefits from public and private investments in research, ensure the vitality and quality of the science system and improve public understanding and acceptance of science and technology and the importance of innovation."

Ministers concluded that coordination at national and international level was needed so access to data from publicly funded research could be broadened. They adopted a declaration calling on the OECD to work towards common principles and guidelines to achieve this.

They also called for action to ensure the adequate supply of scientific and technological skills by the strengthening of policies to promote public awareness of science, the improvement of science teaching and the broadening of opportunities and support for science and technology students.

The ministers recognised that tertiary education institutions should have the necessary autonomy and incentives to adapt curricula to changing skill demands, including for interdisciplinary knowledge and managerial and entrepreneurial skills, and to develop partnerships with industry to meet these goals.

Mr McGauran said countries stood to gain from greater student mobility and pointed to the fact that states such as China encouraged their young researchers to go abroad.

Details: www.oecd.org

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